Latest Gallup Poll Finds a Big Majority of Americans Support Legal Marijuana
But when will the politicians we elect actually do the legalizing?
They keep telling us how polarized Americans are but the topic of no longer sending people to jail for marijuana offenses enjoys warm support among voters of all ages, political affiliations and regions. The most recent Gallup poll finds that 66 percent of American adults -- two out of every three voters -- supports legalizing marijuana, with support growing notably among Republicans and older Americans, two demographics that have been slowest to tolerate legal weed.
This is the third consecutive year support for legalizing marijuana has increased and the highest level of public support since Gallup began polling on the topic in 1969, when a scant 12 percent of adults favored legalization. Perhaps most notably, a majority -- 53 percent -- of self-identified Republicans now supports legalization. That support is at odds with the vehemently anti-marijuana rhetoric of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Republican Party declined to even mention marijuana in its 2016 campaign platform.
The latest poll found 75 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of independents support legalizing marijuana. Majorities of both groups have supported legalization since 2010.
Americans age 55 and older (who presumably know something about smoking pot, at least from their younger days) support legalization with a 59 percent majority, up from 50 percent just last year. Support for marijuana legalization gets stronger as the demographic gets younger. Nearly eight out of 10 adults (78 percent, to be specific) ages 18 to 34 support legalization, while support among adults aged 35 to 54 is 65 percent.
The regional variations in support for legalization vanished in this most recent poll. Polling during 2009-10 found a majority of 56 percent of adults in the West favored legalization but support was significantly lower in the East (46 percent) and lower still in the Midwest and South (40 and 41 percent, respectively). The recent polling shows support hovers around 66 percent -- plus or minus one percent -- in each of the four regions.
Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, which has long advocated for an end to prosecuting adults for marijuana use, said in a statement that Americans are turning against "our nation's failed experiment with marijuana prohibition."
Currently nine states, including the District of Columbia, has fully legalized marijuana use by adults, which has instantly created large new industries, and a tax revenue windfall, within their borders. None of those states is in the South or Midwest, though voters in North Dakota and Michigan will decide on legalization next month. A total of 30 states have legalized medical marijuana, though some are far more restrictive than others.
"There are not many issues out there that enjoy majority support among both of the major political parties and in every region of the country," Hawkins said. "This support is consistently translating into wins at the ballot box, and it should further motivate elected officials to take action at the state and federal levels. Hopefully lawmakers are paying attention to this clear trend in public opinion. If they ignore these poll numbers, they do so at the risk of seeing a drop in their own."